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Anaheim considers total ban on camping in parks

September 24, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A controversy in Anaheim over restrictions in public parks that would seriously impact the homeless: The Anaheim City Council met Tuesday night over the issue.

City officials estimate there are between 80 to 100 homeless people in the city; many stay in public parks.

On the east side of La Palma Park in Anaheim, about a dozen tents are surrounded by personal belongings.

One woman says she's lived there for a year and a half. She's not sure what she'll do if city council votes to ban camping at all hours.

"It means no privacy, no shelter. A lot of us, this is the only privacy we have," said "Fancy."

City municipal code already prohibits staying in a public park between 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m.

"We're not really here in the evening," said "Fancy." "We have to transport everything to another location, hope that we don't kicked out over there."

A proposed ordinance would not only ban camping all the time, but it would authorize authorities to impound personal property unlawfully stored in public spots. City officials say the proposal comes after residents' complaints.

"It does create an uncomfortable atmosphere for people coming to the park. Many people say they feel intimidated and don't feel that the park looks good," said Terry Lowe, Anaheim Director of Community Services.

"I understand people's feelings. I understand somebody taking their kids to the park, you have homeless folks all around, you may have unsanitary conditions," said homeless-rights advocate Ron Thomas.

Ron Thomas is the father of Kelly Thomas, a homeless mentally ill man who died after a run-in with Fullerton police in 2011. Ron Thomas plans to ask city council some questions.

"Where are they supposed to sleep? They need a safe ground, they need a place to go," said Thomas.

"There are concurrent efforts going on to deal with multitude of issues that surround homelessness," said Lowe.

City officials say two weeks ago they began offering access to restrooms and storage for peoples belongings with the help of the nonprofit Mercy House.

But most agree that the long-term solution is a year-round shelter, something that so far does not exist in Orange County. The city says it is working on that.

"We are working very closely with the county to identify places where we can develop year-round shelters," said Lowe.

If City Council approves the ordinance, officials say there would be a grace period before any citations are issued to ensure everyone understands changes to the law.

Tuesday night, the City Council continued discussion of its camping ordinance to Oct. 8.


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